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Sundae + Mr. Goessl Bring Vintage Pop to Brewery

Seattle sweethearts Sundae + Mr. Goessl will kick off the summer music scene in Baileys Harbor with a refreshing take on vintage pop this Saturday at Door County Brewing Co.

The husband-and-wife team of Jason Goessl and Kate Voss has been building a repertoire of classic tunes from the 1930s and ‘40s for just two years but in that time, they have embarked on three national tours, played more than 200 live shows, and released three albums.

They are currently one week into their Wisconsin/Minnesota leg of a Makes My Heart Sway spring tour, making 14 stops in three weeks between Superior and Madison to share the music off their newest album.

“We just released it less than a month ago, called Makes My Heart Sway, and the title track is actually an original song written by Jason,” Kate said. “It’s a pretty big mix of songs from the ‘30s, original songs. We cover a local Seattle band called Prom Queen and we also cover a Squirrel Nut Zippers song which is a band from the ‘90s that really influenced both of us and our music…We have poppy tunes and we have some really tremolo, moody ballads on there, so it’s a pretty diverse album.”

They bring these songs to life through Goessl’s custom Epiphone Swingster (a cross between the guitars played by jazz great Joe Pass, and guitarist and creator of the “Nashville sound” Chet Atkins), which is played through a custom amp called the Retrofier, along with Voss’ pink melodica (also known as a blow-organ). The final touch to their 1930s aesthetic is Voss’ mic – a vintage-inspired Super 55.

But before they became a modern day rendition of Les Paul and Mary Ford, Jason and Kate were musical acquaintances in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle, where each built a solid reputation playing with a variety of bands. They got to talking and discovered a mutual love of vintage pop, swing and jazz (which the Maribel, Wisconsin native Jason became acquainted with through youth jazz camps, including at least a couple two-week Big Band sessions at Birch Creek Performance Center).

Kate asked Jason to collaborate on an old jazz musical project, and in a matter of nine months, the trajectory of their personal and musical lives would be changed forever.

“When we were playing music together, it was strictly music and I was working at this bar in Ballard and every Sunday, Jason would come to my work and he would have a beer and we would chat about music,” Kate recalled. “He started coming in and he would bring me presents…then I finally put it together that Mr. Goessl had a crush on me and we started dating, so I became Sundae because he would come visit me on Sundays. We switched it for the ice cream topping. So sweet.”

Since then, they have conspired to bring a fresh take on classic tunes from composers like Duke Ellington, Cole Porter, the Gershwin brothers and others found in the Great American Songbook (a compilation of popular songs and jazz standards from the early 20th century) while making jazz more accessible to their audiences.

The way they do it? Vaudevillian-style performances complete with vintage garb (think flapper hats and kitten heels for Kate, and Howard Roberts-esque suits for Jason) along with a healthy dose of cheesy jokes.

“We have a lot of upbeat, ragtime swing songs, toe tapping songs and Kate has beautiful vocals renditions of all these,” Jason said. “In between songs, Kate has a bunch of jokes she made up – very family-friendly, corny, cheesy jokes. They work well [with the audience] because a third groan, a third boo, and a third laugh but it really brings everybody in. Sometimes with jazz music, it can get a little heady with what we’re playing because modern music today doesn’t have much for melody and most popular music is one or two chords so the people aren’t used to this harmonic, melodic music. For some people, it’s a lot to listen to. By having these jokes, it breaks the ice and brings us closer to the audience.”

And if Jason’s masterful take on jazz guitar and Kate’s playful vocals aren’t enough, the duo also has another specialty – putting a ragtime twist on modern songs, from Michael Jackson to Miley Cyrus – the result of a successful crowdfunding campaign for their first album (Cheek to Cheek) that gave more substantial donors the opportunity to request a song to be arranged and recorded.

What came of it was an all-request, eclectic mix of tunes that landed on their second album, Under the Covers with Sundae + Mr. Goessl.

“We had a few people who chose more contemporary songs,” Kate said. “We were kind of surprised by that but we took on the challenge. We did Michael Jackson’s ‘Beat It’ in the style of the ‘30s and we’ve done a Miley Cyrus song. We have a couple of songs that are not really from that era at all but we’re doing it in the style of the ‘30s. It’s kind of our thing.”

Sundae + Mr. Goessl take the stage from 7 – 9pm on Saturday, May 28 at Door County Brewing Co., 2434 County Road F in Baileys Harbor. For more on the band, visit SundaeandMrGoessl.com.

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